Place of Evidence
Glen Eyrie Rock Tour: Clash of Uniformitarianism and Catastrophism
Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs, Colo., is a sacred place of recent and ancient history, where rocks, towering sandstone columns, and granite crags provide grand-scale evidence and clues that reveal a stunning mystery of origins.
Hidden in canyons away from the bustle of the city, Glen Eyrie is the headquarters of The Navigators and the Christian ministry’s retreat and conference center. It wasn’t until geologists visited a few years ago that the ministry realized what was hiding in plain sight around them.
Glen Eyrie and the Grand Canyon in Arizona are the only reported places where earth’s total geologic history can be told through the open wounds of a massive cataclysmic event – an event that scrambled the earth’s crust and top layers of rock, dirt, and sediment.
The Great Unconformity
The Great Unconformity is clearly visible at Glen Eyrie and a protruding example is one of the first stops on the popular Rock Tour, an informative walk around the retreat grounds to view unusual rock formations, see fossils, and hear about how they might all have come to be.
The Great Unconformity is a dividing line of base rock below and sediment layers above. It’s called the Great Unconformity because it doesn’t match what should be expected through uniformitarian processes. It represents a gap in time and process between known pre-Cambrian era rocks and Cambrian sediments.
It can be found across the globe, topped by similar layers of sediment where it appears. Much of the mapping of these geologic phenomena comes from oil exploration and discovery.
This dividing line of base rock and sediment layers contradicts the scientific establishment’s uniformitarian view, which sees the earth’s geology created gradually by uniform sediment layering over millions of years. Uniformitarian scientists assume that the same natural laws and processes they believe they see today have always operated that way and apply everywhere in the universe, and that such uniformity accounts for all earth’s geologic change.
At Glen Eyrie and the Grand Canyon, it’s obvious something else happens.
Cambria is the Latinized name for Wales, where rocks believed to be from earth’s initial forming were first studied in 1835 by geologist Adam Sedgwick. Uniformitarians believe the oldest known rocks are 4.6 billion years old dating to when earth formed from a disk of gas and dust circling the sun. Human life, they say, appeared some 250 million years ago from an evolutionary process that grew out of that forming.
Catastrophists, on the other hand, say the earth’s geological changes over time were caused by catastrophes and intervention rather than gradual evolutionary processes.
The oldest known rock is believed to be the Acasta Gneiss found in the Slave craton in Northwest Territories, Canada, a geologically defined area of continental cores stretching from middle to eastern Canada. The rock is said to be the earth’s oldest intact crustal fragment. Gneiss is formed by high temperatures and pressures on sedimentary rock.
The Great Unconformity, ironically, is a clue that tells a story beyond accepted scientific traditions. The fossil record demonstrates that layers of earth above the core-rock craton base have fossils, but no fossils exist in that base rock. Fossils are the result of anaerobic processes that trap dead creatures and plants in heavy, heated sediment above the crustal, crystalline rock.
Fossils tell a story of catastrophe caused by rapid change. One of the world’s most dramatic fossil sites is near Vernal, Utah, where mangled and broken dinosaur bodies are preserved in the rock record. This dinosaur slaughter couldn’t have come from dinosaurs just laying down and dying. They were torn apart and rapidly covered by earth and sediment, and they decomposed in an oxygen-less environment. The weight and pressure of earth and water captured the dinosaur plight like a snapshot in a rock camera.
A recent volcanic eruption in Washington state contributed evidential support for catastrophism, demonstrating how cataclysmic processes work to stratify earthen layers and fossilize what might be caught in the process.
In 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted in a series of volcanic explosions that blasted rocks and raging water, immediately killing 57 people. The 24-megaton blasts demolished a 230-square-mile area around the mountain. Alive with lightening, the eruption’s fiery plume ascended more than 100,000 feet blowing ash across the central U.S.
Scientist observers reported a sudden 5.1 magnitude earthquake triggered the volcano’s final eruption. The north side of the mountain rippled then blasted ash and rocks at 650 miles per hour and bled out 1,300-degree magma for miles. Heat from the eruption melted and released glacial ice that slid down the mountain at 100 mph burying the Toutle River in debris 150-feet high.
The force splashed the water out of nearby Spirit Lake, launching an 850-foot wall of water and debris that flew over ridges and created new lakes several miles away.
The tumult shaved limbs and branches off once-towering trees as they tore down the mountainside creating log jams and covering Spirit Lake with an estimated 350,000-acre feet of pyrolyzed trees and volcanic ash. Trees settled to the bottom of the water, some floated vertically anchored by root balls. Many literally petrified in the heat and pressure of the volcano’s fury.
This catastrophic incident demonstrated that millions of years are not required to gouge out valleys, change rivers, create fossils, and cause massive earth and rock upheavals. It reveals how great slabs of rock could push up into mountains and massive torrents of water can quickly erode valleys to create the geologic shapes we see today.
Some argue the Mt. St. Helen eruption demonstrates that massive geologic changes may not take very long at all and may not have happened all that long ago. Changes seen during the Mt. St. Helens eruption happened in days, not millions of years.
But what about radiometric and carbon dating? Don’t these calculations prove rocks and the earth are eons old? Maybe not.
Andrew Snelling, a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney, Australia, and Answers in Genesis research director, questions radiometric dating techniques, calling them unprovable and plagued with problems. In a recent article, he said critical concerns are problems of material contamination, isotope mixing during catastrophe that could affect proportional material measurements, and inconstant radioactive decay rates that are assumed to be constant.
“…If these (radiometric) clocks are based on faulty assumptions and yield unreliable results, then scientists should not trust or promote the claimed radioactive ‘ages’ of countless millions of years, especially since they contradict the true history of the universe as recorded in God’s Word,” he wrote.
Another current controversy that illustrates the split between uniformitarianism and catastrophism involves analysis of manganese and iron nodules or pellets that are assumed to be radically slow growing but appear to grow faster than ocean-floor sediment can cover them. Jake Hebert, Ph.D., says “long-age dogma” influences what scientists are seeing with their own eyes in his recap, “Manganese Nodules Inconsistent with Radiometric Dating.” The varying sizes and where these nodules appear contradict current uniformitarian thought of how the nodules appear and change over time.
In an uncredited answer to a question about radiometric dating, a University of California, Santa Barbara, scientist did admit that radiometric dating accuracy depends on the right set of minerals and a lack of contamination to ensure accurate dating results. However, the writer contends that decay rates of isotope systems are known and using different minerals comes up with similar dating results, concluding such dating analysis is correct.
The geologic recording that might have happened in a relative twinkling of an eye at Glen Eyrie and the Grand Canyon contrasts sharply with current scientific thought. For catastrophists, the geology we see today is the result of rapid shifting earth under catastrophic pressure of raging water, volcanic magma pushing up from the deep, earthquakes, fire, and meteorites. These realizations are slowly changing scientific thought on uniform geologic processes once deemed to be scientific gospel.
Where deer and big horn sheep now tiptoe on sheer crags and tilted layered rock outcroppings in the Glen’s quiet peace represents a massive, global event of unimaginable forces manifesting in quick time.
Exactly what happened can never be proven by a scientific method, only scientific conjecture — like the blind men describing an elephant in the ancient Hindu parable. Absolute truth cannot be explained through individual subjective experience, as we all may have a piece of the truth, but none can see the whole truth.
Are we looking at some material chance process in Glen Eyrie’s unique geologic formations, or an intentional intelligent intervention that has left evidence that only the rocks could explain?
“… Long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water…”
2 Peter 3:5
In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. … And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.
Genesis 7: 11-12; 24
Great Unconformity Photo Courtesy of University of Arizona.